Lodi City Council Race: Four Contenders in District 4, Three in District 5
August 27, 2020 at 6:24 pm
Image courtesy of the city of Lodi
There are two open seats on the Lodi City Council, which will be chosen separately to complete the city’s transition to by-district city council elections. Prior to 2018, city council members were elected at-large. In October 2017, the city received a letter from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) asserting that the at-large system diluted the Latino vote in violation of the California Voting Rights Act. An ordinance was adopted in March 2018 by the city council establishing by-district elections.
District 4 is situated just west of Highway 99 and Lockeford Street. Most of the district is north of Highway 12 and west of Main Street. Councilmember JoAnne Mounce, who has served since 2004, is seeking this seat. She currently represents Lodi on the board of the League of California cities. Recently on city council, Mounce negotiated down the price of the city’s ongoing water meter installation from $1200 to $300 per house, launched a program to renovate alley infrastructure, and secured bus rides for Lodi students.
If reelected, Mounce hopes to finish ongoing infrastructure repairs, enact pension reforms (including maintaining the existing $10 million pension stabilization fund), and potentially provide free Internet access to the district. She has been endorsed by San Joaquin County Supervisors Kathy Miller and Chuck Winn and the Lodi Professional Firefighters Local 1225.
Ramon Yepez, a data analyst who has worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. embassy in Madrid, is also running for District 4’s spot. “Raised on the East Side, I am ready for the privilege to represent my neighborhood… District 4 has been neglected for a long time - it’s time we change that.”, per his campaign website.
Yepez supports many of the usual issues, including homelessness, jobs, and infrastructure. More interestingly, he has proposed the use of artificial intelligence in Lodi for things such as energy metering, training employees, analyzing security camera footage, and predicting poor air quality.
Also seeking the city council position is Shak Khan, a local business owner and former overseas contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense. He would like to hire more police officers and firefighters to work on blighted areas and help the homeless population. Khan also told 209 Politics that start-ups and new businesses would be helpful in bringing jobs to the district, pointing out how he is currently renovating the Round House Tavern on Lodi Avenue.
The final District 4 candidate is Nati Bowman, a paralegal and nonprofit director. She has founded Partners for International Cooperation, which aids organizations in becoming nonprofits, and the Lodi-based Commons Community Center, which provides a food pantry, clothing closet, and home deliveries. Partners for International Cooperation has also funded a solar powered farm in Kenya.
Bowman has also served as the clerk of the Tracy Rural County Fire Protection District Board. She has proposed policies such as supporting affordable housing and local businesses, programs catered to the specific needs of homeless individuals, expanding green spaces, and expanding community mailboxes and access to municipal permits.
District 5 wraps east and south around District 4. Lodi Measure L Sales Tax Oversight Commissioner Mikey Hothi is one of three candidates. He has emphasized his role in securing funding for cybersecurity and cybercrime protections, roadway and waterway improvements, and Lodi Lake. In regards to the issue of homelessness, Hothi told 209 Politics that, “We need to provide shelter for our city's growing homeless population and provide law enforcement with the tools to clear these folks from the streets.”. He has also proposed increasing green space by expanding the Lodi Lake nature area northward and creating new non-vehicle routes.
Hothi has been endorsed by State Assemblymember Jim Cooper, who he also serves as district director to. He has also been backed by San Joaquin County Supervisors Tom Patti and Miguel Villapudua, as well as Lodi Planning Commissioner Mitch Slater.
Also running is Michael McKnight, a local business owner, podcast host, and firefighter. He has been endorsed by the Central Valley Impact Republicans and congressional candidate Antonio Amador. McKnight has advocated for increasing cleanups in areas such as along the Mokelumne River in order to combat the homelessness crisis. He has also said that he would possibly support a review of police training, but would not support any effort to divest from existing policing methods.
The final candidate is Hector Madrigal, a student and service worker. He is the founder of The Olive Branch, a news and politics organization. Madrigal was also the Vice President of the Delta College Politics, Law, and Society Club, which helped students register to vote and get civically engaged.
Madrigal has proposed instilling term limits for city council members, establishing a process to remove councilmembers, and allowing Lodi citizens to vote for mayor. He also spoke with 209 Politics about the need for Latinx representation on city council. “Lodi is over 30% Hispanic, yet there are no Hispanic representatives and very few community leaders of color.”, he said.
Madrigal has voiced support for police reforms outlined by 8 Can’t Wait, which include a chokehold ban and a requirement for officers to intervene when fellow officers are using excessive force. He has also proposed a day center in which those who are homeless can receive their medication, lock up their belongings, charge their phones, and have access to social services and job training programs.
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